GULF SHORES, Ala. — Count on a few extra fans Saturday at the National Collegiate Beach Championships.
That’s because seventh-seeded LSU, the closest thing to a home team this event has, located just less than a four-drive away, upset No. 6 Long Beach State on Friday afternoon in the losers bracket.
The tournament started with eight teams, but Long Beach and South Carolina are out, the latter after being ousted by Florida State on a day when the wind was simply vicious at times, albeit slightly better later in the day for the second round.
As a result, Saturday’s action has:
No. 1 USC (36-1) vs. No. 3 Pepperdine (24-3) at 3 p.m. Central: Both teams won twice Friday. The winner moves in Sunday’s 1 p.m. championship match. In the regular season, USC won at Pepperdine 4-1 on March 4.
No. 7 LSU (27-7) vs. No. 5 Hawai’i (26-6) at 1 p.m.: The loser is eliminated, while the winner plays at 4 p.m. This will be the first meeting this season between the teams.
No. 2 UCLA (30-5) vs. No. 4 Florida State (28-8) at 2:10 p.m.: The loser is eliminated and the survivor plays the LSU-Hawai’i winner. UCLA beat Florida State 4-1 twice this this, on March 12 in Manhattan Beach and April 1 in Miami.
LSU lost its first match in the morning to second-seeded UCLA. The score was 3-0 because all competition stops when one team clinches, but all five pairs were in huge battles.
“It really comes down to about one or two plays and in these conditions that could be fortunate or very unfortunate,” LSU coach Russell Brock said after that match. “It is really important to stay strong throughout both. Our position moving forward is focusing on the next match. We know that we can beat anybody here, it is just about executing one or two plays better. I am looking forward to the next competition.”
He was right. Against Long Beach State, the No. 3 pair of senior Katie Lindelow and freshman Olivia Powers won 14-21, 21-19, 17-15, ending it on a stuff block by Powers.
“I didn’t realize we were tied 2-2 until it was match point for us and I was real excited to be in the middle of it all,” Lindelow said.
Lindelow, who is from Louisiana and played four years of indoors for LSU, knows how big the victory is.
“I think we were pretty disappointed this morning,” she said. “We were expecting a little more out of ourselves. So the fact that we could rally and make it tomorrow is great and anything can happen on day two. Anything can happen and we hope it’s on our side.”
Long Beach State saw its season end 25-10. The Beach lost to Pepperdine 3-0 to open the tournament.
USC just keeps on rolling. The Trojans dismantled South Carolina to open play and then sent Hawai’i to the losers bracket, 3-0 in both matches. USC, of course, is the defending champion.
Pepperdine, which won this tournament twice when it was under the auspices of the AVCA, first beat Long Beach State 3-0 and then knocked out UCLA 3-1. Former Stanford star Brittany Howard and Corinne Quiggle clinched it for the Waves.
“Our job here is to try and stay in the winners bracket,” Pepperdine coach Nina Matthies said. “We had great play. Absolutely fantastic. Couldn’t be happier.”
UCLA beat LSU to open play, but the Bruins will have to battle back against Florida State. The Seminoles, who played in last year’s title match, were knocked off by Hawai’i, and then eliminated South Carolina.
“We were definitely frustrated we could not come out a little stronger,” Florida State junior Vanessa Freire said. “The wind is a great equalizer. We had to refocus and get ready for our second match. We wanted to get that win and we got it to move on to tomorrow.”